Bad Religion is more than just a punk rock band. They are a punk rock institution. They have existed for almost 20 years and have always been a part of the musical evolution that is independent music. Your Blink 182s, your Sum 41s, your New Found Glories; none of them would exist if it wasn't for Bad Religion. It is only fitting, then, that "The Process Of Belief" blows all of those bands [and about a million more] out of the water.
The most-hyped point about this album, of course, is the fact that guitarist/songwriter Brett Gurewitz is back in the band after the band's somewhat-failed stint on major label Atlantic Records and subsequent return to Brett's own label Epitaph. What does this mean? It means that vocalist Greg Graffin and Gurewitz wrote together for the first time significantly since 1994. This is the punk rock equivalent of John Lennon and Paul McCartney getting the band back together. If you're not familiar with them [and if that's the case, I feel sorry for you], maybe the basketball analogy of Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson both reuniting with the Chicago Bulls at the same time could help you understand the importance of the situation better. This is a huge deal, and the album definitely lives up to the pressure put upon it.
From the second you press play, the disc shows no intention of letting up on intensity. The trio of opening tracks "Supersonic," "Prove It," and "Can't Stop It" plow through the listener in barely more than 3 minutes total, shushing all nay sayers who said this band had lost their passion for their music. The band has rarely sounded tighter with music this fast. Up next is "Broken," one of the many standouts on this disc. Slowing the album down just a tad [although there's still plenty of energy], this song's infectious chorus coupled with a tasteful acoustic guitar during the verses gets this song my vote for "radio single." I wouldn't be surprised if this is the song they play on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on January 29th. "Kyoto Now!" is the band's collective shot at American politics [what punk album would be complete without one?], and they do a fine job of trying to awaken their audience to the wrongdoings of our capitalist nation. On the other hand, "Sorrow" is an incredibly moving, emotional number that, even though it was written months before the 9/11 attacks, it's repeating message of "And there will be sorrow no more" sticks hard to your ribcage, allowing you to digest it slowly. This song gives me shivers when I listen to it. "The Defense" is a sort of "21st Century Digital Boy" part 2 for the band, with singer Graffin ranting about the desensitization of America's youth coupled with the eventual technological downfall of our basic human rights. It's deep, it's profound, and it's punk rock? Who would have guessed, right?
Overall, the band's triple guitar attack is breathtakingly intricate without losing any ferocity and the drumming is nothing short of rock solid throughout the entire album, partially due to new drummer Brooks Wackerman and his astounding chops. Nothing sounds overdone, with fills in all the right places and breakneck tempos abounding. The band's vocal harmonies, as usual, are bar none. Even though most people say the Ramones are the punk rock version of the Beach Boys, I'd venture to say that Bad Religion doesn't fall far from the Beach Boys inspiration tree with well-crafted melodies and harmonies like these. With tracks like "Destined For Nothing" and the absolute sonic bombast of "Epiphany," you'll find yourself singing along with these in your sleep, or, if you're like me, coming up with your own harmonies to blend in with the already tri-voiced parts. Another well done part of the album are the liner notes and album artwork. The booklet is absolutely gorgeous, with layered tracing paper at some points as well as lyrical foldouts. If you happen to own Radiohead's "Kid A," imagine a punk rock version of their CD booklet and you'll be on the right track. Graffin and Gurewitz have regained their chemistry which made all their early work like "Suffer" and "Against The Grain" so successful. This isn't your father's Bad Religion, and it's a good thing, too - I don't think he could handle it.
Can't Stop It